There may be no better example of symmetry than the Rockettes: a glorious lineup of identically clad and coiffed precision dancers.
But Sarah and Katie Daniel have upped the stakes: Not only are they sister Rockettes — they’re also identical twins. So you can be forgiven if you think you’re seeing double.
The Daniels, who turn 20 Wednesday, have been dancing since they were 2. It was only natural: Their mom’s a former ballerina turned Arthur Murray ballroom dance instructor who married one of her students. Katie and Sarah, who have an older sister and younger brother, spent most of their childhood in Waterford, Mich., taking tap, ballet, hip-hop and jazz lessons at their mother’s dance studio. “The studio was like our second home,” Sarah says. “We were there more than we were at home!”
They were 4 the first time they saw the Rockettes perform, in Detroit, “but we were really young then so it didn’t click,” Katie says. Four years later, they saw the dancers again, this time with one of their mom’s students in the lineup. That did it.
“It was, ‘We have to do this, and be Rockettes together,’ ” Sarah says. “And we made the mutual decision to come out here.”
Home-schooled since the seventh grade, they finished their high-school studies early and spent a couple years at a community college before they came to New York, at 18, for the Rockettes audition. After only one callback, they were in — and ecstatic.
“Even if she got hired, and I didn’t,” Sarah says, “I’d be . . . ”
“So happy!” Katie blurts, finishing Sarah’s thought. “Me, too!”
Last season was their first as Rockettes — and the first time they found themselves separated: The Rockettes are divided into the Blue and Gold squads, two different, equally accomplished casts that alternate performances, and the Daniel gals were split up. The sisters, who used to sleep in bunk beds and shared everything, find themselves apart most of the day, a gap they fill with frequent phone calls about anything and everything that comes to mind.
“We definitely live on FaceTime,” Katie says. “We’re always on the phone. Having that separation makes our moments together so much more rewarding.”
Living in New York took some adjusting. Last year, in their Hell’s Kitchen sublet, they rehearsed so often that neighbors left a few warning letters — and rolls of carpeting — by their door.
“It’s not like we were in heels or anything,” Sarah says. “We were practicing in our socks . . .”
“We were just being reindeer!” Katie adds of the Christmas Spectacular’s opening routine, where the gals prance and dance to “Sleigh Ride” while dressed as Santa’s flying helpers. But they took the hint and moved their practice sessions into the laundry room, kicking beside the washers and dryers. “The glamorous life,” Katie giggles.
These days, they live in a three-bedroom apartment in Washington Heights with two male dancers, one of them a former student of their mom’s. They’ve befriended a few other Rockettes and spend what together time they have exploring the city, shopping at Zara, hitting the occasional bakery and going to concerts. Last year, they saw one of their idols, Troye Sivan, perform at Radio City.
“We were in the last row of the highest mezzanine,” Sarah recalls, “and we kept thinking, ‘We’re performing here in a month! On that stage!’ ”
Although they may share the same thoughts — sometimes voiced in unison — they’re not totally identical: Katie is maybe a quarter of an inch taller than Sarah’s 5-foot-6½.
“Personality-wise, people who know us can tell us apart by the little things,” Katie says. “I’m known to be a little more outgoing, but it depends on the day. Now we kind of ping-pong around.”
They suspect that because Sarah’s older — if only by eight minutes — she tends to be the mothering type. She wishes Katie were a little more proactive with the laundry, which, Sarah likes to point out, isn’t going to fold itself.
They’re both homesick for their brother, Clark. He’s 13 and has Down syndrome, and is the reason they feel passionately about doing volunteer work. And that, they say, dovetails beautifully with their lives as Rockettes.
“One of my most memorable experiences as a Rockette was visiting a Ronald McDonald House last season,” Katie says.
Their family just came east to see the show.
“Clark’s been talking about this for weeks,” Katie says. “He was sitting in an aisle seat last year when Santa came by, and he was thrilled.”
For now, they enjoy taking turns sitting in Radio City on their morning or evening off, watching each other dance.
“It would be cool to be in the same cast,” Katie says, smiling at her twin, “but it’s really, really cool seeing your sister perform!”